District 2 voters have got a lot to think about – Andrew Merkel not just for “potheads”

12 May

We had a good turnout of new and returning faces for Second District Supervisor Andrew Merkel yesterday, thanks to those of you who made it in. I was glad to hear, people actually read those notices in the Enterprise Record, but I was not able to contact the paper in time to get another notice about the cancellation.

I swore to God I wasn’t going to talk about pot. I wanted to find out what Mr. Merkel knew and thought about some other issues before the board, and I did, but when voters started trickling in, the questions all turned toward the marijuana ordinance. Oh well, that’s what these meetings are about, I was so thankful to have some people to ask questions.

What I had wanted to know for myself was whether Merkel is actually qualified to take on the job of supervisor or just angry over an issue and, Hollywood style, throwing his hat in the ring. When Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor, his brother-in-law made a successful bid for city council because the city told him he had to cut his hedges. He turned out to be qualified for the position, and ended up serving two terms. Today, I found out, sure, Merkel is annoyed about one specific issue, but he showed knowledge of other issues that will be in the forefront over the next few years.

Merkel, after all, has been working with county staff for the last few years, making a legitimate effort to bring the kind of regulation he sees as necessary for the pot industry. As one man said at our meeting today, “Pot is here to stay,” and Merkel believes regulation through registration will be good for the county, the growers and the citizens in general.  In working with staff, he’s gotten to know County Administrative Officer Paul Hahn fairly well, and has working relationships with most of the sitting supervisors. He knows his way around the county offices, knows who to ask for documents, is familiar with the county budget, revenues and expenditures, and feels confident that he is ready to take a responsible position in leading the county forward.

He holds a degree in Organizational Management, comes from a family background of financial management, and feels, “the county is a big non-profit corporation.”  He was excited to talk about ways in which the county could benefit from regulated marijuana farming, from permit fees and taxes, increased property values, and health-related tourism.  “Marijuana should be regulated,” he said, noting that not everybody should be allowed to smoke it nor should it be allowed to be grown everywhere. But overly onerous restrictions are not realistic, he says. They don’t address people’s true need for their “medicine,’ and criminalize otherwise productive and respectable citizens. I met some of those folks yesterday and I have to agree.

We also had some folks with anecdotes about  harassment or bad behavior by pot growers, but like Merkel explained, the activities they described – burning a field in the middle of the night, growing crops along river levees, threatening neighbors – that’s all illegal, and can and should be reported, no matter who is doing it. Merkel also quoted county appraiser and assessor candidate Diane Brown who said that property values are going up, up, up in the hills. I have also seen this on the real estate sites. Whether this is because of pot growers or despite pot growers is up to speculation, but it certainly weakens claims that pot growers lower property values.

I didn’t want to be contrary, but  I will say here, there are alot of things your neighbor can do that are annoying and will lower your property values – try living next to an unlicensed daycare, or a “party” house.

Here Merkel agreed with opponent Larry Wahl – the code enforcement department is short of staff. It’s funny, the county people, including Larry Wahl,  have contradicted themselves – they’ve all said the county is doing fine financially, but then turned around and said there are staff shortages in various departments, unfilled positions that result in inadequate service. Looking at salaries, you see the same old same old – management compensation packages over $200,000, close to $300,000 – like the two management positions they just filled in Behavioral Health. Then the “subordinates” are expected to get along on the drippings – less than $40,000, including benefits. I tried to talk to Merkel about this but we didn’t get far before other people came in and immediately wanted to talk pot.

Merkel did report the Department of Water Resources has recently dedicated $3.8 million toward “Weed, mining, and lumber.” See there it is – try living next to somebody who’s clearing or logging their lot, or maybe doing a little illegal mining operation. Walk along Butte Creek sometime, see all the high-banking going on. Go to Downieville, where my grandfather once shot a Frenchman for high-banking on his property – read the paper, at least once a year, somebody gets shot over gold. Pot farmers are hardly the threat to our environment or community safety that is posed by mining and logging, but I don’t hear any cockamamie stories about those activities at Board of Supes meetings.

We were able to touch on some other topics. Merkel believes fracking is an irresponsible practice, reminding everybody how much the price of clean water would shoot up if there was an accident that contaminated our complex surface and groundwater system. This topic should get more attention than pot, but I know it scares the crap out of me. I guess people just feel helpless on this issue, nobody ever wants to talk about water except for the vested interests, and they treat us like the back door cousins come begging around with our little buckets.

Merkel has worked largely as a realtor/developer. He believes the county should go full-steam ahead on infill development, primarily in Chico. He wondered aloud, what would it take to get these people on big lots to develop – I almost lost my temper here. We just went through a building boom that ruined many people’s lives, just to get revenues to pay salaries and outrageous pensions, and here he comes, suggesting we need to develop our way out of the mess they made doing that. I just had to grind my teeth and wait til he shut up.

Impetuous youth.

I will say, he’s at least as qualified for the job as Larry Wahl. I also admire his stance as an “independent,” meaning, he is not running for a non-partisan office on a party ticket. I like that. I’m sick of the good old boy network that has run this area since I was a tot. Sure, in Chico, the good old boys were both Republican and Democrat hats, they fight like two big dogs, and we get the scraps. This is a non-partisan office, I  don’t want to hear Republicrap or  Demogogue bullshit folks. 

I also have to admire his willingness to be available and listen. Larry Wahl also came down to the library, I’ll give him that, but he has taken a stone-wall stance on many things, especially pot. He’s also made pot a big issue in the election, to the exclusion of many other important topics.  Larry has put the pot people on the defensive, attacked them, and now they’re coming out of the woodwork, many people who might otherwise have gone on, minding their own business and paying their taxes. 

Toward the end of our session, the older man who had opined that pot was here to stay asked Merkel if he thought he had a chance of winning. I’ll be honest – this man could pass for Tom Daughterman in a line-up, I would have taken him for a Wahl supporter. No, he said quietly that he was frustrated with Wahl’s stubbornness and unwillingness to come to the  table and be reasonable.  Merkel smiled easily and confidently and said “yes, I’m going to win”. He reported that “Larry has made a lot of enemies,” he’s been rude to people, turned away from folks who’ve tried to reason with him on this issue, and led a campaign of harassment and name-calling instead of working for an equitable solution.  One woman said she doesn’t like the cost of “repealing what they’re doing,” meaning, the constant barrage of marijuana ordinances coming out of the Board of Supervisors. A couple of people questioned Wahl’s reputation as “fiscal conservative,” questioning the cost of having an election “on what the people have already voted on.” 

Merkel reported that Candace Grubbs had checked every single signature on the referendum petition recently handed in, instead of doing the simple sample method, at a cost of $4950 in staff time. Larry told us he was going to make sure she did just that. Friends of mine who know Grubbs assured me she would use her discretion to throw out signatures for simple mistakes, like no middle initial, when she could easily verify most of them using common sense. She has that discretion, whether she uses it to the benefit of the voters or to solidify her job security is up to speculation. This latest complaint isn’t the first against Grubbs, it was initiated by one of her staff, and I’ve heard she’s got a file full of such complaints. I’ve seen the way she treats her staffers at meetings, I wouldn’t work for the bitch. 

I haven’t got a figure on how much it will cost to add this issue to the November ballot, but Merkel told me he received two figures on Measure A (the marijuana measure not the Chico election measure) – I think he was originally told $80,000 but later found out the actual cost was closer to $120,000. 

I guess these are “chump change” amounts to a person who can spend millions of dollars in other people’s money over the course of a morning.

For the record, I do not live in District 2, so I won’t make an endorsement one way or the other. But I will agree that Larry Wahl needs to step down from his righteous pedestal and try to remember, he works for us, we don’t work for him, and that’s our money he’s slapping down on that bar. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “District 2 voters have got a lot to think about – Andrew Merkel not just for “potheads””

  1. Mad mom May 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    If Andrew Merkel is as inept, vague and “loaded” as the questions in his recent phone survey, he himself is a good case against any and every use of marijuana. His effort to mislead the public by using a phone survey to fabricate irrelevant statistics is a cheap and (not surprisingly) unethical trick.

    • Juanita Sumner June 2, 2014 at 6:40 am #

      Well, I know I promised anonymity for comments, but when somebody sends in a wild comment like this using a fake name, screw them.

      This comment was sent from Ernie Spears e-mail address. Spears attempted a run against Maureen Kirk years back, and turned out to be a bag of hot air. He worked for Sean Morgan two years ago. I’m going to guess he’s working for Larry Wahl now.

      What a cheap, chickenshit tactic Ernie, get a life.

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